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Phoenix Community Garden Loses Land To U.S. Department Of The Interior

A 15-acre urban community garden in Central Phoenix will be closing abruptly.

The former vacant lot at Central Avenue and Indian School Road was turned into a collaborative space known as PHX Renews in 2013; but the organization has now been told to vacate by Feb.15.

Tom Waldeck, CEO of Keep Phoenix Beautiful, the organization that oversees PHX Renews, said that developer Barron Collier acquired the land from the U.S. Department of Interior, but that as part of the deal, Collier had been required to make payments to an education fund for Native Americans and had defaulted on those payments.  

The U.S. Department of Interior sued. Collier settled and is now giving back the property.

Waldeck explained they were told they could negotiate a new lease with the U.S. Department of Interior and were expecting to do so. But late last week, he received a call saying they had to vacate by mid-month. This despite the fact that local politicians had gotten involved on their behalf.

“Frankly the timing sucks," Waldeck said. "The Secretary of Interior has not been confirmed. Most of the people in the decisionmaking were Obama appointees and they’re all gone. We’re getting stonewalled.”

Gardeners must be out by Friday, Feb. 10. Some are trying to move their plants, but much of the agriculture is likely to end up in the recycling heap. 

The idea of PHX Renews was to temporarily fill vacant lots in Phoenix. They are looking for other places to set up, but finding a walkable, convenient spot for these neighborhood gardeners is difficult.

Naomi Gingold is the weekend morning host at KJZZ. When’s she’s not in the studio, she’s out reporting stories in the Valley.